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Tuesday April 23, 2024

Australian politician ‘sold out’ country to foreign spy ring, says intelligence chief

He did not name the country involved, but said it had also targeted Australia’s defence industry

By REUTERS
February 29, 2024
Director-general of security for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Mike Burgess can be seen. — X/@MikePBurgess
Director-general of security for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Mike Burgess can be seen. — X/@MikePBurgess

CANBERRA: A former politician “sold out” Australia to a foreign intelligence service, the country’s spy chief said on Wednesday, adding that his agency had confronted the spy ring to let them know their cover had been blown.

Director-general of security for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Mike Burgess, said in an annual speech he had declassified details of the operation, which used professional networking platforms, email and social media to target Australians.

He did not name the country involved, but said it had also targeted Australia’s defence industry, offering money for reports on the AUKUS partnership with the US and Britain to build nuclear submarines.

He said the foreign agency had “successfully cultivated and recruited a former Australian politician” several years ago. He did not identify the politician, and said the person had not been charged because they were no longer active.

“This politician sold out their country, party and former colleagues to advance the interests of the foreign regime. At one point, the former politician even proposed bringing a prime minister’s family member into the spies’ orbit,” he said.

This plot did not go ahead, he added, but others did.

Burgess referred to the foreign spies as the “A Team” and said they had tried to attract Australians with national security information by offering them consulting roles.

Australian academics and political figures attending an overseas conference were met by “spies in disguise”, he said.